Still breathing out through my nose since finishing this book ten minutes ago (that was about a year ago, admittedly, but still remember picking up my pen to write this down at the time).
I have got such a soft spot for these melancholy missives, but it’s not shared by absolutely everyone. Not every reviewer is taken up by the unreliable narrator at work here, but this book has a dénouement that I found pretty darn brilliant, so have definitely joined the ranks of ‘those in favour, m’lud’.
I think Julian Barnes is a superb, dexterous author, who leads you by the hand but likes to outmanoeuvre you as an avid onlooker. “Arthur & George” also had me going ‘oh, ver-ry clever’ much nearer the beginning of that particular tome, in a very different way, and I suspect the bias swerves off in yet another direction for the as yet unread “Flaubert’s Parrot”. Any light to shed?
This story certainly makes you ponder over the dangers of putting pen to paper and the trouble it can get you into, even unwittingly. Reminded me of that unforgettable A’level English book from nineteen-hundred-and-dot (that being when I did the A’level, never mind the publication date), when the infamous letter that “Tess” of the d’Urbervilles has penned gets slipped under the doormat and is left unread by Angel. One of my most memorable moments, when I remember – epiphany – thinking just how bloody fantastic it is to read. Unthinkably agonising moment in the book, and pure literary brilliance.
Loved the observation on one’s memory playing tricks on us here :
“When you start forgetting things – I don’t mean Alzheimer’s, just the predictable consequences of ageing – there are different ways to react. You can sit there and try to force your memory into giving up the name of that acquaintance, flower, train station, astronaut… Or you admit failure and take practical steps with reference books and the internet. Or you can just let it go – forget about remembering – and then sometimes you find that the mislaid fact surfaces an hour or a day later, often in those long waking nights that age imposes. Well, we all learn this, those of us who forget things.”
Back in the here and now, what I also enjoyed about this book was the way Barnes explores the whole trickiness of adolescent behaviour – who hasn’t made some bad choices back then, or been guilty of knowing they were being too annoying for words, and who are we to judge? For those less taken with the tale, can very much appreciate that young and not so young Tony could be seen as extrêmement vexatious, but I really did enjoy this quick read from cover to cover – especially the way it ends!! Cliff hanger, and please report back if you agree, or (especially) if you don’t?
Read in May 2014.
Rating : 10/10 – A FAVOURITE BOOK
Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2011, Nominee for Costa Book Award 2011, Winner of European Literature Prize 2012 …